Friday, August 20, 2010

My gluten free journey so far

A dear friend asked me for some advice last week about gluten free food for children. It took a little thought, and while pondering my answer, I thought about my gluten free journey so far, and realised how far I'd come.

A bit of history: my 7 year old daughter was diagnosed with coeliac disease 4 years ago. My MIL and SIL already had coeliac disease so I was aware of gluten free food to some extent, and had cooked some things gluten free for family gatherings. However nothing prepared me for the first shopping trip after my daughter's diagnosis. It seemed there was nothing that she could eat. And anything she could eat, was inedible, either because much of the gluten free food available in the shops is gross, or because she was 3 years old, and therefore a picky eater.

I joined the coeliac society, which was a help, spent a fortune on food, threw out every loaf of gluten free bread [read: brick] I made for nearly 6 months, and had to re-learn how to bake and cook. I spent a fortune on tupperware to colour-code my pantry [black lids are 'bad', red are safe for her], and obsessed about every meal.

Then we had to contend with kindy and school, and lunchboxes - SO much harder to find gluten free food that travels well and is still edible by lunch time. And THEN I got gestational diabetes while pregnant with my third daughter. And let me tell you, low-GI food and gluten-free food are almost poles apart. Now there was nothing I could eat. It was back to square one with meals and food obsessing... I typically made two or three different meals every night as anything my daughter could eat [potatoes, rice etc.] I could not. I am thankful the gestational diabetes ended with that pregnancy. And anyone out there who has both coeliac disease AND diabetes [the two illnesses are related] - I take my hat off to you!

I work really hard to make sure my daughter doesn't miss out on too much: I make fish & chips at home [yes I own a deep fryer], I'm always trying a new gluten-free challenge [eg. donuts, pancakes, dumplings] with mixed success. We have cupcakes in the school freezer so when there's a birthday cake she gets a treat too. When there's cooking at school I supply gluten free ingredients [I used to bake oval-shaped biscuits every Friday morning in prep until I found out they froze well!]. Mostly she's content, but occasionally she gets down and wishes she didn't have to eat gluten free food... my SIL said even as an adult she still has the occasional day like this.

Having a child with coeliac disease is difficult, stressful, and worrying. Each time she accidentally ingests gluten [it does happen] it is an ingestion of poison that has short-term issues, and long-term risks. However it is also a disease that is cured with a dietary change. Yes, a strict diet, but hey, it's not leukaemia or some other devastating illness. As a family we eat very little pre-prepared food so we eat a very healthy diet on the whole [though the countless cupcakes on my blog may imply otherwise].

Why am I telling you all of this? I guess I just want to share some of my experiences with others who may be in a similar situation, or who want to understand more about what it's like. Drop me a line sometime if you, too, have to deal with any of these issues... it's always good to share ideas!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Birthday Cakes - done for 2010!!

Here are the birthday cakes [most of them] that I made for my 4 girls for their birthdays this year... they all chose their own [except Miss 1], and helped with the decorating for the most part. It's been a busy time! I'm hoping now I can concentrate more on my papercraft and sewing and less on cakes... until 2011.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My latest card day creations

Here are the cards I did with the playgroup ladies at coffee and cards this week: the black and white card is a slightly different take on a father's day card - not your usual sailboats or tools. The sillouette card is a new stamp I wanted to try - simple but very effective. You can't tell in the photo, but I cut out and mounted a second set of the largest flowers on foam which gives the card a real 3D pop-out factor.

We had a lovely time on Wednesday, it was a great time-out for the busy mums.


On my other blog, I've just posted about an amazing website where you can design your own fabric. I'm hoping my sister will check it out, as I have an idea for us to collaborate on.

Friday, August 13, 2010

ladybird cupcakes and icing roses

Here are cupcakes I made for Miss 1 to celebrate her birthday yesterday with her playgroup friends. This is only a few - I actually made 4 dozen!! I wasn't planning on ladybirds, but when I looked in the cupboard and couldn't find anything more inspirational to decorate cakes with than chocolate chips, I was forced to be creative and think of something cute that suited a first birthday. This is the result.

Later in the day I decided to use the leftover icing to practice my buttercream roses. Here is the result:
If you look carefully [though the poor photography may prevent this I hope] you will see one of the roses is actually upside down, as it fell onto it's head as I was transferring it. Others are melting. And some look okay. Things I learned during this process:
1. the people who make this look easy on YouTube are VERY talented and well-practiced.
2. when the icing is warm from being handled it makes gooey, melty flowers that don't look like roses [Mr E thought one of them was a frangipani!].
3. making them and putting them straight in the fridge helps the above problem.
4. although roses are my favourite flower I've never looked that closely at how the petals are formed around each other, cause for the life of me I couldn't recall what a real rose looked like when I was trying to make one.
So this was a process that produced mixed feelings - because one or two were a success, it took a lot of practice and patience and honestly it was mostly an accident!
Oh, and if you eat 4 or 5 of these 'practice' roses in one sitting you feel a little queasy afterwards [experience talking].

Monday, August 9, 2010

Our Australian native garden

Since moving house, and ripping out everything that was growing in our yard, I've discovered a new love: gardening. Unlike most [read: all] of my hobbies, gardening forces me to slow down, as you have to be patient to wait for the plants to actually grow. This is a very good thing for me. In fact, I'm finding it very relaxing.

On the converse, if I'm cranky and need to get rid of some frustration, or in need of exercise, I can grab out the maddock and rip into the ground and after a short time I'm no longer frustrated [mostly because I'm so puffed - I'm REALLY unfit!].

Over the last 3 months we've been digging out, planting and mulching the back corner of our yard. The plan is to grow up a tall lilly pilly hedge along the fence to screen next door's enormous shed, and when the other plants grow, it will be a bit like an informal maze, with the paths leading to the paved area Mr E has put in the back corner. We've used Australian natives, put in a dry creek bed [with plans for a small bridge over this for the girls]. Now that it's all mulched, it looks amazing.
And all that is left to do is wait...
Initially we were checking on the plants every single day [mostly to make sure none had died, as we don't know that much about gardening]. Our neighbours would have laughed if they'd heard us "Look, there's a new shoot on this one!" "I think this callistemon is growing!" "One leaf on the lemon myrtle has been chewed by something!".

It has been such fun to plan, execute, and COMPLETE this project. Good for the girls too, who all helped with various tasks. Now we're planning the rest of the garden... it's a very big yard, and we've ripped everything out, so it won't happen overnight. But we'll have a ball doing it. And hopefully by the end of the process we won't have killed too many plants and will be able to call ourselves gardeners!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What I was up to last week

This is the birthday card I made for my MIL to go with the animal doorstops and fabric I mentioned last week. She received them in the post late last week and I'm happy to report she loved them.

I decided before I tackled anything else I needed to tidy my sewing room as every surface was covered [again]. In my tidying I uncovered a panel I'd forgotten all about for a soft book so I made that up:

And I rediscovered my UFO's - a very large tub full - and decided I must use one of them to learn to free motion quilt on my new machine. Here is my first attempt:

I've a lot more panels to quilt but if I remain consistent I should have it complete by the end of the week I hope! It took me ages to work out how to find the menu to set the machine up to quilt... it was actually quite easy to find, but I had no idea where to start! I'm hoping for many more hours in front of the machine this week!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Simple apron

I finished off this apron for myself last night - I'm such a messy cook, I really need to wear aprons. This fabric is an upholstery grade fabric I picked up at IKEA before moving late last year.

It's a large rectangle, hemmed on all four sides, with the ties attached 8.5 cm below the top edge. I made the ties from scraps of red fabric I had lying around. I modified the idea from the apron in Kelly Doust's book 'The Crafty Minx.

Trialled the apron tonight - I was dubious, as it has no shape, but I just love it. Especially the fabric. So do my girls... they all want one "just like it".

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Birthday gift completed

My mother-in-law is a fabulous dressmaker so I bought her some fabric for her birthday. I also made these cute animals. She used to have some frogs and lizards filled with sand as doorstops, but over the years, with a lot of help from the grandchildren playing with them, they all 'died'. I made a platypus, lizard and frog. The larger frog on the left was made by Miss 7 today under my supervision.

Of course all four critters are a little 'flat' right now, but when filled with sand I think they'll be just right. The critters and fabric will be posted tomorrow. I hope she likes them.